Dating furniture by nails, how to identify the age of furniture by the nails

As explained earlier, the first cut nail machines replicated the handmade nail - the square tapered nail with a rosehead. The shaft of each exhibits cutting marks where the nail is stamped out of a sheet of iron in much the same manner as a cookie cutter. In our photo you can see the round sawn-off peg that secured the tenon of the lower vertical post into the mortise that had been cut into the horizontal beam. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education. The use of the joinery technique stretches back into prehistory, but its utility is still relevant.

Dovetails - A Clue for Dating Antiques - The Harp Gallery

Above are nails used to secure accordion lath - a plaster base found in a rural U. Dovetails have long been a popular method for attaching two pieces of wood at a degree angle often seen in drawer construction. Nails cost more than his labor. What's interesting and unusual are those regularly spaced ribs which may have been made deliberately to avoid withdrawal that is to create withdrawal resistance.

Or possibly this was a hand-forged spike whose original fabrication attempted to build up the iron spike by combining older materials into one. How to Determine the Age of Antique Furniture. Found this in an old town in Florida while metal detecting. Simpler country furniture often had larger dovetails, or even a single tail and pin. Dovetailing reveals the age and hand-cut or machine-made origins of wood furniture.

How to Identify the Age of Furniture by the Nails

  • Fabric that is original on your antique can provide serious clues of its age.
  • Association for Preservation Technology International.
  • As the dovetail joint evolved through the last one hundred thirty years, it becomes a clue for the age and authenticity of antique furniture.

Here we describe antique and modern cut nails focusing on tree nails, wrought nails, and cut nails used in wood frame construction or interior finishing or carpentry work. The marks are often visible, especially on the inside or underside of a piece. This is one of the quickest and most definitive ways to accurately determine the age of an antique piece of furniture.

  1. Thomas Jefferson, a true Renaissance man, made nails on his plantation.
  2. The cut-nail process was patented in America by Jacob Perkins in and in England by Joseph Dyer, who set up machinery in Birmingham.
  3. But the style developed into a very thin, precise and fragile-looking joint.
  4. One way of changing the mindset is to think in terms of the price per nail in comparison with other old artifacts being used and indeed what can be purchased today.

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Nails are one of many clues to the age and authenticity of antique furniture and building construction as well. Look for differences in nail styles within a piece of furniture if you suspect two or more pieces from different sources have been joined into a composite piece. In addition to nails, building material, wood saw cut marks, and other hardware details can further assist in determining building age.

These nails were much cheaper to produce. The Romans made many of their nails from iron, which was harder, but many ancient iron nails have rusted away since. This lavishly hand-carved cabinet from about shows structural dovetail joints on the back side. Steam power, transferred by pulleys and leather belts, operated saws, carving machines and routers that could copy an original pattern exactly. Some popular antiques are quite well documented and may be tied to a specific time period in history making an age determination quite simple.

Probably securing or nailed into a Timber. Today, dovetail joints are machine made, and that fact is what helps to pinpoint the age of the chest of drawers from the attic. It's possible that it did cross the Atlantic of course not by swimming or floating but buoyed by wood. While it is possible that an owner replaced the knobs on an antique with more modern units, you'll most likely be able to tell.

How to Identify Furniture of the 1800s by Its Dovetailing

Hand-wrought nails have tapered but irregular and crooked square shafts. Like restorers of historical buildings, you can identify the period by the technology used to create the nails and unlock the past of furniture. In addition to working with these old machines, the process also involves preserving the blacksmith's skills to form cutting and heading tools. The head is usually round or rectangular but sometimes has an off-center notch.

Determine the Age of Antique Furniture
Dating a House Site With Nails Dating a Building With Nails

The nail shown above in the photo and detailed further below was hand-made in the Northeastern U. Search the InspectApedia website. The result is that these cut nails are often mistaken for handmade nails. For the restorer, it is vital that the correct raw materials are used in any attempt to preserve an old building. Tremont supplies restoration contractors and others working on historic buildings and for historians, Tremont offers a reference set of modern reproductions of old nails fasteners, update shown above.

Be First to Discover

Aware of the brisk trade in iron, later explorers such as Captain James Cook brought supplies of nails and hoop iron with them to barter for freshwater, fish, pork, and vegetables. After all, it's just a nail. We've found nails of every size around here, but this was a first.

But, many of the original wood components may have been refinished leaving original paint deep in the wood's pores. That said, it is important to realize that skilled craftsmen are building furniture by hand even today so you'll want to continue to investigate the age of the piece using at least one other method. Tremont further explains that in North America nails were made by hand, often as a winter activity.

Determining the age of antiques is half the fun! Real lacquer changes color after time. Feet and chair spindles were also carved individually, so there is no way each one could possibly look identical.

How to Identify the Age of Furniture by the Nails

The type of dovetailed joint, especially in drawers, reveals much about furniture construction and dating. The Mansfield, Massachusetts Tremont Nail company's historical notes cited below indicate that nails have been made by hand dating back to B. But like I said I have items dating back to while metal detecting.

The history of nail making

The history, number and types of nails is both interesting and enormous, even if we confine our discussion to just those used in the construction of buildings. Below you can see the Treenail joining two rafters at the ridge of this home near Poughkeepsie New York. Will come back with more later. The nail has a tapered rectangular shaft but straight on two sides, and the shaft is smoother than that of the hand-hammered nail. For thousands of years, the traditional hand-forged nail was square and tapered, with a hammered head attached by the blacksmith.

Then the nail maker would insert the hot nail into a hole in a nail header or anvil and with four glancing blows of the hammer would form the rosehead a shallow pyramid shape. Oak is highly popular in furniture that dates from to earlier years. The technique produces a sturdy, long-lasting connection.

Recognizing Age and Construction in Antique Furniture

Glasgow Steel Nail Co has been involved in many interesting projects that have included providing nails for the Globe Theatre in London, restoration work on Stirling Castle and other castles. Though still used for historical renovations, and for heavy-duty applications, such as attaching boards to masonry walls, dating websites cut nails are much less common today than wire nails. An analysis of glue remnants could be the key to precisely defining the age of a hand-cut dovetailed antique.

The Humble Nail A Key to Unlock the Past

Wooden nails - Tree Nails or Treenails Post & Beam Construction

The posts and beams were cut to size, mortises and tenons were cut, and the builders marked the corresponding joint components with numbers or letters - in my photo you can see the. As soon as man discovered that heating iron ore could form metal, the ideas for shaping it quickly followed. When the Puzzle Pieces Don't Fit To determine if missing nails were antique or if they have been replaced with modern nails, english heritage radiocarbon dating look closely at the shape of the hole and the color of the wood around it. These continue to be used to attach small moldings and trim. About the Author Cynthia T.

One nail at a time was heated and laboriously pounded out to shape with a hammer on an anvil. Tiny angled saw cuts were followed by careful cutting by a sharpened chisel on both sides to avoid splintering. Nails in antique furniture are often barely noticeable, but they are another key to unlock the history of wooden pieces. Timber framing using post and beam construction with mortise and tenon joint connections was used in Europe for at least years before it was first employed in North America.

How to Determine the Age of Antique Furniture
Recognizing Age and Construction in Antique Furniture

By nail making machinery had advanced to produce cut nails at high volume and low cost and at improved reliability. The first lever cut a triangular strip of metal giving the desired width of the nail, humorous headlines for dating the second lever held the nail in place while the third lever formed the head. Because of the Gulf Stream it is possible it crossed the Atlantic.

Indeed, the price is not dissimilar to that charged for hand wrought nails in medieval times. Also on some boats or ships the level of carpentry was more-skilled than and finished wood surfaces smoother than timbers used in barn and building construction. Hand-cut dovetailing was the default until when uniform machine-cut joints were introduced. While you may not have an example as extreme as that sitting in your garage, you never know what you may unearth as you determine the age and value of your antique.

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